Charles H. MacNider Museum
Mason City, IA
RIGHT THERE IN "RIVER CITY,"
the Charles H. MacNider Museum and Richard Leet, together, in their 33rd year.
The museum's development record relates directly to one of the reasons Richard Leet is still in Mason City. In an age when it is uncommon for career professionals to not join in the "upward and outward tide," he and his wife, Kay, have placed a special priority on family, family activities, and a preference for living and working in a smaller community, while yet enjoying the ongoing challenge and satisfaction of working with and for an ever growing and quality organization. A third reason for his sticking to Mason City stems from his leading a double life as an administrator and artist. A 1988 article in The Iowan magazine said: "As a founding director of Mason City's MacNider Museum and as noted watercolorist, Richard Leet enjoys the best of both worlds."(4)
Encouraged by museum officials to continue his creative efforts, the director has been given time and space for producing his paintings. Since the early 1970s, he has enjoyed a half-day a week set aside for painting; and since 1979, a third floor (in the museum), loft-like studio to call his own . "A painter mainly of watercolor landscapes in a semi-abstract mode, Leet has established a solid reputation with an impressive record of more than 50 one-man shows and works in" (5) many museum, private, and corporate collections.
Richard Leet with three watercolors created as an Art in State Buildings project
for Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, 1995
The artist, says his paintings are celebrations of life expressed as reflections of his curiosity about, and respect for, the awesome energies of all existence. His earliest stylistic inspiration is revealed via the following quotes: "... watercolor had become my main avenue for creative expression with Marin and Burchfield as key points on my compass" "... it is the work of these two artists that I have looked at the most and that has had the strongest influence on my development as a painter;" and "... I am still excited about seeing their work and must admit that some 'Marinesque' methods and bits of 'Butchfieldian' fantasy may still appear in the things I make ... and maybe always will." (6)
"As an artist, Leet recognizes quality artwork. As an administrator, he has the ability to work with other people and get things done,"(7) said Bonnie McCoy, a member and past president of the museum's Board of Trustees. He believes the arts are an integral part of life and have been since the beginning of time. "Human expression and communication through the arts," he has said, " hits us where we really live ... in the thinking, feeling, and values domain. Through the arts we can see, hear, say, and experience much that lifts us from a basic understanding of ourselves and our world and sets us on an enriching and adventuresome course through life." For some, that course makes its way through the special arts opportunity to be found "right there in River City" in the being of the Charles H. MacNider Museum.
(1) Kristin Buehner,"MacNIDER plus LEET equals 25 years of excellence in the arts," Mason City Globe Gazette, April 26, 1992, sec. S1.
(2)"The MacNider: Growth with a clear focus," Mason City Globe Gazette, April 26, 1992, Sec. S1.
(3) 32nd Annual Report, Charles H. MacNider Museum, Mason City, Iowa, June 30, 1997, p. 1.
(4) Mark Stegmaier, "An Artful Balance," The Iowan Magazine, Spring 1988, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 50-54.
(6) Richard Leet, "Introduction," John Marin/Charles Burchfield, an exhibition catalog, Charles H. MacNider Museum (30th Anniversary celebration recognizing both the museum and its director's accomplishments), Mason City, Iowa, September 17-November 12, 1995.
(7) Buehner, op. cit.
For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.
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